Pubdate: Sat, 24 Jul, 1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle
Section: page 21A
Author: Martha Irvine, Associated Press


Female Addicts Paid To Forgo Pregnancies

CHICAGO -- A privately funded program making its way across the country
pays $200 to drug-addicted women to get their tubes tied or use some other
long-term means of birth control.

The California-based program has drawn the wrath of critics who call it
short-sighted, racist and a source of drug money for users.

But Barbara Harris of Anaheim, Calif. -- founder of CRACK, for Children
Requiring a Caring Kommunity -- says this is a response to a system that
often fails to punish women who give birth to drug-addicted babies.

"I can't believe that these women are able to stop by the local hospital
yearly, drop off a damaged baby and walk away," Harris, who has adopted
four children born with cocaine in their systems, said Friday.

CRACK gets funding from private donations. Among Harris' financial backers
is tough-talking radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

Since 1994, Harris said, CRACK has paid $200 each to 57 California women
who had given birth a total of 262 times. She said some men have inquired
about vasectomies but never followed through.

Now the program is catching on in Chicago, Minneapolis, Fort Pierce, Fla.,
and Dallas.

Among the acceptable forms of long-term birth control are Norplant,
capsules that are inserted under the skin in the upper arm, and the IUD, or
intrauterine device. Tube-tying is the most controversial method because it
is not always reversible.

CRACK does not pay for the procedures, though those are often covered by
state-funded health-care programs, Harris said.

Steve Trombley, president of Chicago's Planned Parenthood, said he doubts
most addicts have the judgment to make such a big decision.

Constance Jackson, president of Altgeld Health Clinic, which serves poor
patients on Chicago's South Side, questioned whether a program like CRACK
would be gaining momentum if most drug-addicted babies were white.

"Look at adoptions," Jackson said. "White babies are more precious than

Harris, who is white, countered that most of the mothers who have been paid
in California are white.
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